Blackout takes the neighborhood at midnight. All electrical sounds silenced at once. Once the momentary confusion subsides, and the eyes and ears get accustomed to the night, the mind begins to see, feel and sense things that get tangled in the chains of conscious thoughts and superfluous perceptions of reality, obscured by day light.
First to be felt is silence. Gradually you begin to hear the gurgling of insects, the occasional name calling of house lizards, the flapping wings of little bats and the squeaking of rodents. Add to that the monotonous tingling of a wind chime in a neighboring balcony. At first they all seem random but slowly a pattern begins to emerge and soon, they all settle in the background, setting the stage for the things to come.
You can’t see the moon but there is moonlight. You can make out the outlines of trees, lampposts, telephone wires and TV cables against the grayish silhouettes of buildings where folks have called it a night. There is no light in the windows to distort the scene; the black of the night, the silver of the moon, the faint blue of the sky lose themselves in each other to create the perfect shades for the forms before your eyes and the patterns in your thoughts.
A gust of wind makes its way from east to west. You can hear it coming through the alley, moving dirt, dust and debris along its way. You can hear it coming through the iron gates and flooding the walkways. The sleepy tree by the road jerks awake and greets the wind. The older leaves decide to let go of the branches they clung onto for so long to go with the wind. The younger leaves wave them goodbye. No hard feeling. No looking back. No regrets. The wind moves to the west.
Silence fell once more for one brief moment before its broken again by the sound of footfalls, followed by the booming voice of the night watchman at the east gate – “Is anybody there?” “Aye! I am here!!” –echoes the response of his comrade at the west gate. Not a pair of menacing whistles, not digital noise scratching inside plastic boxes, not clang of metal against metal but human voices speaking words, reassuring each other and myriad others, fast asleep, wide awake or somewhere in between.
May be this is an event of no consequence. May be the ripples made in the night air will fade and die before the night is over and their only witness, the tender green leaf will bear no recollection of the event as it gets preoccupied with sunlight at day break, rain in the afternoon and dust in the evening. Or may be the piercing voices have just cracked open a porthole in space and time, showing you a glimpse of eternity…
May be the west wind and the spirit of the fallen leaves will carry these voices round the world and beyond, staging the same play over and over again. May be many years from now, someone will stand under the night sky, as he has stood so many times before (and after), under so many different skies, and lend his ears to the westward wind. And may be, just may be, he will listen for long enough,…long enough to hear the voices calling…comforting each other and myriad others.
You hear footsteps on the walkway that never bear footprints. You see dead leaves blowing with the westbound wind. You look towards the sky and try to find your stars. You hear someone calling, – “Is anybody there?”